FROM THE DIARY OF A SNAIL by Gunter Grass

FROM THE DIARY OF A SNAIL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From the Diary of a Snail is a documentary phantasmagoria about Gunter Grass' travels through West Germany in 1969 when he was campaigning for Willy Brandt and the Social Democratic party. In it he turns away from his customary and devastating role as a comedian of the grotesque to become Old Sobersides, asking his readers to pause before the precipice of history, beseeching us, like Cromwell, out of the bowels of his disquietude to think that we may perhaps be wrong, warning us that a heady hedonism is not progress, that bureaucratic witch doctors and scientific planners are not infallible, that moderation as a tactic of politics is not a sin, that conservatism as a philosophy of the soul or a philosophy of society does not necessarily engender cultural stagnation, that socialism without democracy is a sham, that the prophets of egalitarianism who do not nurture the individual or respect human eccentricity are the harbingers of a dire and implacable order, that conveyer-belt capitalism and puritanical communism are to be resisted. The book is full of notational chitchat (Grass among his family, Grass in the back rooms of the Federal Republic), fragments of ideology (the strategies of Brandt's Ostpolitik, for instance, as well as provincial squabbles and squibs virtually incomprehensible to an American), a recurring allegory concerning a pedagogical alter ego called Doubt (he collects snails which represent Grass' zoological emblem for "the affinity between stasis and progress"), concluding finally with a brilliant divagation on the theme of Melancholy and Utopia. A rambling, oddly appealing work, whose cautionary last words would surely be clear to the heart of Camus: "Only those who know and respect stasis in progress, who have once and more than once given up, who have sat on an empty snail shell and experienced the dark side of utopia, can evaluate progress.
Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1973
ISBN: 0749394552
Page count: 310pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1973




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